Opinion

Opinion: A report from Pine Ridge, 40 years after Wounded Knee





David Tilsen discusses change, 40 years after the occupation of Wounded Knee:
The last few days of February have been observed on the Pine Ridge reservation every year since 1973 by a four directions walk onto the gravesite at Wounded Knee with speeches, food and powwows. This year, which marks 40 years since the occupation or Siege at Wounded Knee, was marked with the same, although more people came from around the world because of the anniversary. I brought my 85-year-old father who (along with my mother, myself and my siblings) have spent the last 40 years working as allies of the Lakota people. He was honored for his work as the legal coordinator for the Wounded Knee Defense/-Offense committee, and arrests coming out of the same struggle since then. We spent three days meeting old friends, honoring those who have left us, and celebrating the new generations both emerging and established.

We all learned that much has changed in the last 40 years, but much is still the same.

What has changed? There is a burgeoning private sector that is beginning to provide some employment on the reservation. There are restaurants, a couple of hotels and even a coffee shop in Pine Ridge. There are not enough jobs, and what few there are seem to be concentrated in Pine Ridge and not spread out in the districts, but change did seem to be in the air. The speed laws were being enforced, and I was told that there are some elected tribal officials that are addressing the needs of the people.

What is still the same? The states of South Dakota and Nebraska still have not come around to even recognizing that Indian people are part of their state. The “us versus them” mentality that perpetuates the poverty, alcoholism, diabetes, domestic and child abuse, racism and economic and cultural apartheid is as bad as it’s ever been.

Get the Story:
David Tilsen: A report from Pine Ridge (South Side Pride March 2013)